Ocean Currents » Arctic marine ecosystem http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 21 Apr 2017 20:52:17 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Vanishing Arctic: How Less Research Could Eliminate The Last Frontier http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/29/vanishing-arctic-how-less-research-could-eliminate-the-last-frontier/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/04/29/vanishing-arctic-how-less-research-could-eliminate-the-last-frontier/#comments Mon, 29 Apr 2013 21:00:50 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=5211

Credit: Jarred Sutton

In a recently published paper, climate scientists predicted that seasonal temperature patterns in the Arctic could shift the equivalent of 20 degrees latitude toward the equator by the end of the century. Roughly, this shift would be like the difference between the extreme northern tip of Quebec and New York City.

While such rapid changes would have significant effects on Arctic food webs, scientists don’t know exactly how these changes will play out or the extent to which they will alter Arctic ecosystems. While the recent paper focused on Arctic lands, the need for additional research and monitoring is even more acute in the offshore environment.

That’s why legislation introduced earlier this year by Senator Mark Begich of Alaska is so important. Senator Begich’s legislation proposes to establish a permanent program to support research, monitoring and observation of processes vital to the Arctic Ocean’s ecosystem. Such a program could lead to significant advances in Arctic marine science. The better we understand rapidly changing marine ecosystems, the more likely it is that we will make smart conservation and management choices in the region.

Senate Bill 272, “The Arctic Research, Monitoring, and Observing Act of 2013,” recognizes that the Arctic is undergoing profound changes. It acknowledges increased interest in oil and gas, commercial fishing, marine shipping and tourism there. Furthermore, it notes that this growing interest is happening even as the region is warming at twice the rate of the global average and seasonal sea ice is diminishing rapidly. Indeed, September saw the lowest Arctic sea ice coverage since satellite measurements began in 1979.

According to S.B. 272, a “lack of research integration and synthesis of findings of Arctic research has impeded the progress of the United States and international community in understanding climate change impacts and feedback mechanisms in the Arctic Ocean.” The legislation proposed several solutions, including:

  • Calling for the establishment of a permanent Arctic science program to conduct research, monitoring and observing activities in the region – both to promote productive and resilient ecosystems, and to facilitate effective natural resource management.
  • Proposing funding a merit-based grant program to support new scientific research and field-work in the Arctic.
  • Funding and supporting long-term ocean observing systems and monitoring programs in the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and North Pacific.

The bill’s provisions could form the backbone of a long-term, integrated research and monitoring program for the Arctic—something that Ocean Conservancy has long advocated. A coordinated research, monitoring and observing program would help fill important gaps in our knowledge of Arctic ecosystems.

Such a program would help scientists identify areas that are critical to the functioning of the marine ecosystem. As the region responds to climate change and experiences the impacts of industrial activities, a long-term monitoring and observing program would also help scientists and decision-makers understand and adapt to the changes that are taking place.

Policy-makers and stakeholders need better information about Arctic ecosystems in order to make informed choices about activities such as oil exploration, shipping and commercial fishing. Better information can also help conservationists identify and promote management options that will help preserve ecosystem resilience even as the Arctic experiences rapid change.

The Arctic’s future is uncertain, and the management choices we make today will affect the region for years to come. We must make sure those decisions are based on sound science. For that to happen, the Arctic needs a long-term, integrated research, monitoring, and observation program. Senator Begich’s Arctic science legislation is a good start.

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Smarter Arctic Choices Begin With More Arctic Science http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/21/smarter-arctic-choices-begin-with-more-arctic-science/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2012 21:01:48 +0000 Andrew Hartsig http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=3064
Today, Alaska Senator Mark Begich introduced important new legislation that would establish a permanent program to conduct research, monitoring, and observing activities in the Arctic. If passed, Senator Begich’s bill could lead to significant advances in Arctic science that can then be used to support decisions about the management of a region that is crucial not only to the people who live there, but to the world.

Senator Begich’s bill – the Arctic Research, Monitoring, and Observing Act of 2012 – recognizes that the Arctic is undergoing profound changes. Temperatures in the Arctic are warming at twice the rate of the global average, seasonal sea ice is diminishing rapidly, and there is increased interest in oil exploration, commercial fishing, shipping, and tourism. As the legislation acknowledges, however, lack of integration and coordination among existing Arctic research and science programs has limited our ability to understand the important changes that are taking place in the Arctic. And our understanding of the Arctic marine ecosystem, which provides irreplaceable benefits, is further hampered by a lack of reliable baseline data, critical science gaps, and limited documentation and application/use of traditional knowledge. In addition to urgently needed baseline data and analysis of ecosystem functions in Arctic marine waters, the legislation would enable the gathering of information about subsistence resources and patterns of use in local economies, which are essential to the people and cultures coastal communities in the Arctic.

Senator Begich’s bill takes several steps to address these problems. First, it calls on the U.S. Arctic Research Commission to establish a national Arctic research program plan to help coordinate scientific research activities in the region. Second, it funds a merit-based grant program that will support new scientific research and field-work in the Arctic. Third, the bill provides funding to establish and support long-term ocean observing systems and monitoring programs in the Arctic Ocean, Bering Sea, and North Pacific.

If these provisions become law and are implemented correctly, they could function as a long-term, integrated science and monitoring program for the Arctic, something that Ocean Conservancy has long advocated. A coordinated research program would help fill important gaps in our knowledge of Arctic ecosystems and identify areas that are especially important to the functioning of the marine ecosystem. Just as important, a long-term monitoring and observing program would help us understand how the region is responding to climate change and industrial development.

This kind of understanding gives policy-makers, decision-makers and stakeholders the knowledge they need to make informed choices about activities such as oil exploration, shipping, and commercial fishing. It can also inform decisions about conservation. For instance, as scientists gain more knowledge about the Arctic marine ecosystem and as they integrate and synthesize that knowledge they will be better able to identify critical areas that should be protected from development activities. And that will help ensure that the Arctic Ocean remains an intact and productive ecosystem well into the future.

Federal agencies are already making management decisions that will have significant impacts on the future of the Arctic Ocean. Americans want those decisions to be based on sound science and to ensure sustainable uses of our ocean resources for this and future generations. The Arctic research, monitoring, and observing activities addressed by Senator Begich’s bill would take an essential step toward that goal.

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